Nearly six months after his escape from a maximum-security prison inMexico, the drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, also known as El Chapo, has been arrested by the Mexican authorities, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Friday.
The arrest came after an intense gun battle Friday morning in the city of Los Mochis, a seaside area in Mr. Guzmán’s home state of Sinaloa.
“Mission Accomplished: We have him,”
read the announcement from Mr. Peña Nieto.
“I would like to inform the Mexican people that Joaquín Guzmán Loera has been detained.”
The mission began shortly before 5 a.m. Friday, the Mexican authorities said, after an anonymous tip came in from a citizen concerned about armed men in a nearby home.
How Mexico’s Most-Wanted Drug Lord Escaped From Prison (Again) See the route that Joaquín Guzmán Loera, a drug kingpin known as El Chapo, used to escape from Mexico’s most secure prison.
The authorities said they went to the house, where they were fired upon.
The operation was conducted by Mexico’s most-trusted military wing, the Marines, which captured Mr. Guzmán in early 2014, before his escape last July.
It is unclear whether the government knew Mr. Guzmán was in Los Mochis, or whether his capture was a fortunate coincidence.
Another leader of Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel managed to escape, the authorities said, in the first indication that the gun battle involved high-ranking members of the cartel.
The capture of the fugitive drug lord concludes a deeply embarrassing chapter for the government of Mr. Peña Nieto, which has been waylaid by a series of security and corruption scandals that reached their low point with Mr. Guzmán’s daring escape.
Now, a looming question is whether the Mexican authorities will try to hold Mr. Guzmán for a third time he has already escaped from prison twice or whether they will hand him over to the Americans.
Mr. Guzmán stunned the world last summer when he stepped into the shower in his cell in the most secure wing of one of the most secure prisons in Mexico and abruptly vanished in full view of a video camera.
When guards entered the cell, they discovered a small hole in the shower floor, through which Mr. Guzmán had disappeared.
The opening in the shower led to a mile-long tunnel to a construction site.
The tunnel was more than two feet wide and more than five feet high, tall enough for Mr. Guzmán to walk through standing upright his nickname translates to Shorty and was burrowed more than 30 feet underground.
It had been equipped with lighting, ventilation and a motorcycle on rails.
Some engineers estimated that the tunnel took more than a yearand at least $1 million to build.
The prison break humiliated the government of Mr. Peña Nieto, which had proclaimed the arrest of Mr. Guzmán and leaders of other drug cartels as crucial achievements in restoring order and sovereignty to a country long beleaguered by the horrific violence associated with organized crime.
Guzman’s July escape was his second – he was first arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and escaped from Puente Grande jail in 2001, reportedly in a laundry basket after bribing officials.
He was on the run for 13 years before being held again in 2014.
A huge manhunt followed, with flights suspended at the nearby airports. The US government had offered a $5m (£3.2m) reward for information leading to his capture.
There are still major questions ahead, including the potential extradition of Mr. Guzmán to the United States.
Shortly after Mr. Guzmán was captured in 2014, the attorney general of Mexico at the time refused to extradite him to the United States, saying that the criminal would serve his time in Mexico first before he was sent to another country.
Officials and analysts said it was an effort to show sovereignty and put some distance between the Mexican authorities and their American counterparts, who often used a heavy hand to influence policy in Mexico.
But that stance came to haunt the Peña Nieto administration after the kingpin escaped.
The United States had issued a formal request for his extradition less than three weeks before Mr. Guzmán broke out.
A few months later, the Mexican governmentextradited several top drug lords to the United States, suggesting a new spirit of cooperation in the wake of Mr. Guzmán’s escape.
The people extradited included an American citizen, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a notorious figure known as “La Barbie,” as well as people charged with participating in the murders of an American consulate worker and an American immigration and customs agent.
While the likelihood of Mr. Guzmán escaping from an American maximum security prison is considered low, extradition would still come at a cost to the image of the Mexican state, some analysts say.
“Extraditing him is a way to say we cannot cope with this with our own institutions,”
said Pablo A. Piccato, a history professor at Columbia University.
“While this is something everyone knows, obviously the government has not been able to publicly recognize this or tackle it in the past.”
In a statement Friday, the American Attorney General, Loretta E. Lynch, commended the Mexican authorities
“who have worked tirelessly in recent months to bring Guzmán to justice.”
But she did not directly answer the extradition question.
Although such theories strain credulity, Thompson wrote, the escape hurt U.S.-Mexican cooperation on counternarcotics efforts.
“I think the relationship has been set back 10 years,”
an American agent told her.
“If we can’t trust them to keep Chapo in jail,”
“then how can we trust them on anything?”
Here’s what we said at the time of his escape:
For Guzman known as “El Chapo” because of his short stature the escape adds another chapter to an almost mythical life.
Born and raised in rural poverty, the 58-year-old rose to become the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, a $3 billion drug trafficking empire that now controls 25 percent of all marijuana, cocaine, and heroin imported into the United States.
Mexican authorities initially captured El Chapo in Guatemala in 1993 only to see him escape from prison through a laundry cart eight years later. Despite his complicity in untold death and misery, the escape from authority had turned El Chapo into an unlikely “Robin Hood” figure, a man whose exploits were portrayed in books, film, and popular music.